Broadband infrastructure expansion could be lifeline to Missouri LGBTQ+ youth

For a number of years, studies have shown that LGBTQ people are early adopters of technology and core users of Internet and broadband technologies.

Broadband will be instrumental in keeping isolated LGBTQ+ youth connected through online information services such as tele-counseling, virtual groups, and LGBTQ+ support services to deal with the epidemic of bullying and discrimination.

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But according to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 147,000 households or almost 400,000 Missourians don’t have access to high-speed Internet (25mpbs/3mbps). The majority of those citizens reside in rural communities. 

On Aug. 19 during a press conference at the Missouri State Fair hosted by the Missouri Farm Bureau, Governor Mike Parson announced plans to deploy more than $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase broadband internet access, adoption, and assistance statewide. 

Governor Parsons

“Investing in our broadband infrastructure is critical to unlocking our full economic potential in this state and will serve Missourians for generations to come,” Governor Parson said. “We expect this investment to increase broadband internet connectivity and access in every corner of the state for hundreds of thousands of Missourians. Quality internet supports learning, health care, business, and agriculture in today’s economy, and we are excited to capitalize on this opportunity to truly make a difference and improve lives.”

The plan was developed through a multi-agency effort designed to address a diverse range of broadband connectivity challenges and is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of Missouri families. The plan will be presented to the Missouri General Assembly in January for appropriation.

In addition to the $400 million plan, the Department of Economic Development also submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program requesting an additional $56 million for broadband deployment. If approved by NTIA, this funding could support up to 19 projects, connecting more than 17,000 households, businesses, and other institutions.

“Students depend on the internet to further their education and to better prepare for the jobs of the future,” said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. “We are grateful for this state-level commitment to addressing the digital divide and its impact on students across our state.”

“This plan is a significant investment in Missouri’s broadband infrastructure,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins. “Missouri thrives when its rural communities are strong, and Governor Parson’s plan will help bridge the digital divide between cities and rural areas. It will provide enormous progress toward linking all parts of our state with the modern economy, precision agriculture, and telemedicine.”

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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